Saturday, December 29, 2012

Waiting for Downton

I am looking to the new year with great anticipation, not because I am planning great resolutions but because the new season of DOWNTON ABBEY begins in one week! I can hardly wait, can you?
I had hoped to take a sneak peek before everyone else. I am already subcriber to my local PBS station but they offered DVDs of Season 3 as an incentive so I coughed up more money. Then they sent out a memo saying that the DVDs wouldn't be shipped before January 17th. That's no use, people. The series will be half over by then and I'm certainly not going to cheat and watch the last episode.

Of course I realize I could have seen the whole thing if I'd lived in Britain. I could have asked friends to tell me what happened. But I didn't. The anticipation is all the sweeter. And in one more week.....

So what do you think will happen? Will Mary and Matthew marry? Will Mr. Bates be proved innocent? Will they discover who killed Mrs. Bates? Who do you think did it? My guess is that Sir Richard had it done. I never liked him.

And will poor old Edith finally find herself a good bloke? We know that American granny arrives and sparks fly between her and the dowager countess. So that should be fun. But when is Thomas ever going to get what he deserves, or have something happen to him to turn him into a better person?

If you've already seen it in UK, please don't tell us anything.
 But next Monday morning, January 7th, let's get together and dish on Downton again. Okay?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Rhys's 12 Days of Christmas, Day 12

It's almost here. Last minute baking. Last minute stocking stuffers. Daughter arriving from LA.  Last minute quest to find gluten-free pie crust!!!
And tonight, someone will be visiting your house, leaving presents or coal, depending on whether you have been naughty or nice.
Who this person will be depends on what part of the world we live in.
In America it's Santa Claus, of course. He is actually a corruption of the name Saint Nicholas in Dutch. And in Europe St Nicholas does not come on Christmas Eve but on St Nicholas's day, December 6th. In the Netherlands children leave their shoes out for him and find small treats in them. In Germany he comes to the house, dressed as a bishop with Black Peter or Knecht Ruprect (his dastardly side-kick) beside him. The children are called into the living room and St Nicholas reads out a list of their good and bad deeds from the year. We hope they are good because his side kick sometiems carries a whip! Then the child has to recite a poem, sing a song and is given nuts, candies.

Then on Christmas Eve it is the Christ child who leaves presents under the tree at night. I like this idea better than a strange man in a red suit, don't you?

In England he's called Father Christmas and he used to leave our presents in a pillow case at the bottom of our beds. I remember the thrill of waking in the pre-dawn darkness, seeing a bulging shape by my bed, dragging into bed with me and feeling the wrapped gifts--bursting with anticipation.

So I'm wishing all of you a merry, merry Christmas and hope that whoever delivers the gifts tonight they are exactly what you want, and your Christmas is merry and bright!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rhys's 12 Days of Christmas, Day 11

. Greetings from very soggy California. It's funny but when I look  back at the Christmasses of my childhood I never remember rain. It was always crisp and frosty and occasionally snowy as we walked down the hill to midnight mass. Our voices echoed in the still frigid air and our breath came out like dragon's fire. And the church was almost as cold as the outside, inspite of heaters--especially when I went to visit my grandmother and we went to midnight service at Bath Abbey. There was no way to heat that massive building and we huddled together, hands in gloves, stuck into pockets. But when the choirboys processed in, their angel voices soaring to the vaulted ceiling as they sang, "Yeah Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning" and at the same moment we heard the bells above chiming midnight, which meant it really was Christmas day, then frozen fingers and toes were forgotten. I remember trying to stay awake, dozing off to hear distant voices really sounding like an angel choir, and then walking home to be greeted by ginger wine and hot mince pies before falling into bed.

Have you dragged home your yule log yet? It should be ready and drying out for Christmas Eve. I'm glad we don't have a fireplace big enough at my house because I don't think there is a stick of dry wood in California right now. But the tradition was to go out into the forest and drag home a huge log. It would be lit on Christmas Eve and would continue to burn throughout the holiday, thus ensuring prosperity for the coming year.

You need an awfully big fireplace, however . My sister-in-law at her 14th century manor house in Cornwall has a fireplace big enough to roast an ox and burn a yule log, but she's the only person I know. So that tradition has vanished for most of us.

The French, as always, do things sensibly and make their yule log, the buche de noel, into a delicious cake that they eat when they return home from midnight mass.

I've already made the first batch of mince pies. More to follow... and sausage rolls. How are your preparations going? What do you bake?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas--Day 10

So the world didn't end yesterday? Rats. Now I'll have to clean the bathroom and do the laundry.

One aspect of Christmas that I remember fondly was the playing of family games. Charades was always a favorite. I'm not talking about the watered down version that we play here. We used to produce a wholw little play. We'd take a multi-syllable word and then act out complete scenes to explain. Then a scene that included the whole word. For example Dandylion. One scene with a person acting in dandyfied fashion, a scene in the zoo or jungle with a lion and then someone blowing the seeds away. We had a dress-up trunk full of costumes that we used.

Another great game if you had a big enough house was sardines. It's like hide and seek but with a twist. One person hides, everyone seeks. The first person to find him joins him. More and more people cram in until either the closet or space under the bed won't hold any more or one person is left.

We also played games like passing the parcel or hot potato or even musical chairs, and after meals more sedate word games like I Went to Market. One person starts I went to market and I bought an apple. Next I went to market and I bought an apple and a ball. Next an apple a ball and a cat etc through the alphabet. A person who forgets is out.

I've a good selection of these in the compendium at the back of my new book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas.
 Does your family play any special games?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 9

Did I miss Day 8? I think I did. Could it have had something to do with the fact that I had 12 people coming to lunch and my dishwasher had died? And they didn't leave until 4 p.m. and we had to leave for the city by 5? Uhhh maybe...

Anyway today my fun Christmas trivia is going to be about Pantomime. This is a long-standing Christmas tradition in UK where the word doesn't mean the sort of walking against the wind that Marcel Marceau did. Instead it's a theatrical extravaganza for the whole family.... always a fairy tale: Cinderella, Babes in the Wood, Aladin, Dick Whittington etc. And with all kinds of strange conventions. The principal boy ( ie the hero) is always played by a gorgeous young woman in tights and a skimpy costume. There is always a dame played by a male comedian with lost of padding. There is always a villain whom the aidience boo and hiss. A fairy godmother is a lovely dress.

There is also a character with whom the audience interact, especially the children. He might ask the audience to to watch his gold while he takes a nap making the children go cracy as they try to wake him when someone comes to steal it. Of course there is always an aminal of some sort--the pantomime horse, or cow, with two people inside it. There are always lots of topical and even slightly naughty jokes for the adults and lots of songs and musical numbers. The form hasn't changed for at least a hundred years and pantomimes will be performed all over the country. Smaller versions might even be performed in homes--we've certainly done our share of them over the years with John as the fairy godmother (even when he sported a beard).

There is a family pantomime in my new book The Twelve Clues of Christmas and characters show surprising talents. They are always fun. Try one in your house this year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 8

If you were waiting for today's Christmas trivia, I apologize. Life intervened. After breakfast I went to run the dishwasher and nothing happened. My dishwasher had died before we had people to lunch today and 12 people to lunch tomorrow. Hasty trip to Sears to find new dishwasher, then had to rush to prepare lunch.
Now they've just left and I'm late with my Christmas fact of the days. And  I was going to talk about BOXING DAY.

In England and all commonwealth countries the day after Christmas is a holiday called Boxing Day.
Why the name, you might wonder. It goes back to the time when people had servants (I wish I had one right now to do all that washing up). Those servants were expected to minister to the family on Christmas Day. Then the day after Christmas they had the day off to go home to their own families, if they lived close enough. They'd each receive a Christmas Box from their employers. In the case of servants it might be food to take home, a present of some sort or money.

The tradition of giving a gift to those who perform a service is carried on. Mail carriers, garbage men, newspaper boys stop by to wish you "the compliments of the season." And they expect to get a tip.

Until recently no stores were open on Boxing Day. It was a time to relax and enjoy a quiet time with family (and eat leftovers). In my book The Twelve Clues of Christmas there is a traditional Boxing Day hunt.  Now, alas, commerce has triumphed. Stores and movie theaters are open and life goes on as usual.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas--Day 7

Today I'm going to attempt to continue with my Christmas countdown, reminding ourselves that life must go on and we have to find joy in each other, in family and in small pleasures.

So today I'm going to talk about one of my favorite Christmas traditions--mince pies. My grandmother made them, my mother made them, I always make them and now my daughters do as well. They were always available to be served to people who stopped by, and we ate them warm on Christmas morning as we opened presents.

Mince pies are made in small muffin pans, with short crust pastry filled with mincemeat, sprinkled with sugar. Mmmm. Mince meat doesn't actually contain meat any longer, although it used to. Now it is a mixture of various dried fruits and some rum and sugar. But the origins of mince meat are quite different. In the middle ages small farmers couldn't afford to keep their livestock over the winter as there was nothing to feed them with. So many beasts were slaughtered. But there was no refrigeration to preserve the meat through the winter (the winters in England not being cold enough on the whole to make ice). So the meat was mixed with dried fruits and spices to preserve it. And afterward it was served in pies--mince pies.

I'm not sure exactly when it became a Christmas tradition, but poor peasants rarely ate meat in their diet so having a mince pie as part of the Christmas feast was a logical thing to do.

If you want to make it part of your tradition you no longer have to buy your own mince meat. Crosse and Blackwell make an excellent mincemeat with pippin apples and rum. Roll out the pastry dough nice and thin, cut circles and line muffin pans. Fill each about half full (more and it will bubble over). Cut out smaller circles for lids and press on with a fork to seal the edges. Make a small slit in the top to let steam escape. Bake in pre-heated oven 425 degrees for about ten minutes, until they start to turn golden brown. Let them cool as the mincemeat inside remains very hot.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 6

I was going to do a funny piece about mince pies today, but I just can't do it. My heart is still too heavy about 20 precious little angels taken from us so senselessly.

People are talking about gun control and of course I'm all for that, but the real problem is that we have no safety net for the mentally ill in this country. Too many parents live, as this mother did, with a son who shows increasingly anti-social and violent behavior and has nowhere to turn until he hurts someone--then the only answer is jail.

This is not how a civilized society behaves. We need intervention, treatment centers and health insurance options that cover mental illness and don't bankrupt a family. Let's hope some good comes out of this. Let's hope that it opens a dialog about mental health, about gun contol and we finally DO SOMETHING positive!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rhys's Tw elve Days of Christmas--Day 5

Christmas trees were brought to England from Germany in the early 19th Century when Prince Albert married Queen Victoria. In a country full of fir trees it was easy to find an evergreen to bring into the house. The early trees were decorated with dried apples, straw stars, carved angels, glass birds and instruments and candles--this made them a big fire hazard as the branches dried out.

Of course they didn't dry out as much in those days because the tree was only brought inside and decorated on Christmas Eve.  This was true when I was growing up. We bought the tree on my way to my grandmother's house and decorated it on Christmas Eve. In Germany the tree is kept up until twelfth night on Three Kings , January 6th.

Actually Christmas trees are part of an older pre-Christian mid winter celebration when greens were brought into the house and candles were lit at the longest nights of the year, to banish the darkness and remind folks that brighter das were ahead. In England the old song mentions the holly and the ivy. They were both brought indoors to decorate with, bringing a touch of bright green into the dark, dreary world.

And misletoe, of course--mistletoe, favorite plant of the druids--another pre-Christian tradition that we have incorporated into our celebrations, althougb I don't think those old druids used to stand under the miseltoe waiting to kiss anybody.

Those first Christians were not stupid. They tied in all their feast days to existing celebrations, so that people didn't feel cheated. This is how Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th. Actually we don't know what time of year Jesus was born. But the early Christians thought it would be smart to incorporate this holiday with the Celtic midwinter celebration.

So when you put the lights on your Christmas tree, when you bring holly, pyrocantha, misletoe into the house remind yourself that you are carrying on a tradtion of several thousand years. Cool, huh? 

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas--Day 4

Today I'm remembering my favorite part of the Old English Christmas: Carol singing. A week or so before Christmas groups of carolers would appear on street corners. Children would come to the front door, singing carols and hoping to get a penny or two to buy Christmas presents.

Out in the countryside we would go around the village singing carols. When we knocked at front doors, sometimes the whole family would come to hear us. Sometimes we'd be invited in for food and sometimes they would bring treats to the door--usually mince pies or cookies, and sometimes hot spiced wine, the wassail cup, to go with it. We went on to the next house with a lovely warm feeling growing inside.

The interesting thing was that we knew the words to all those carols. Today I think children can only sing non-religious songs like Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer. And even adults only know the first couple of lines of Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

We'll all find it hard to sing joyful songs this year after the tragedy that happened yesterday in Connecticut. So many beautiful young lives snuffed out. So many families shattered. So many holidays that will never be the same again.

My thoughts and prayers go out to them, knowing that nothing will ease their pain at this moment but wanting them to know that the whole world prays for them and cares for them.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 3

Why do they call it plum pudding when there are no plums in it?
Inquiring minds want to know.
The answer to that is simple. The Victorians used the word plums to mean raisins. And the Christmas pudding has plenty of those.
It dates back to the middle ages and should traditionally have 13 ingredients in it to symbolize Christ and the 12 apostles. It should be made on pudding Sunday (the sunday before Advent) and should be stirred by each member of the family in turn.

You might wonder how it didn't spoil before Christmas day and the answer to that is booze. Lots of it. Brandy or rum or both, poured in copious quantities. When World War 2 was approaching my mother in law made five puddings and they lasted through most of the war years.

The pudding mixture is put into a basin, tied with a cloth and then steamed for hours. It is served with a sprig of holly in it. Some people pour spirits over it and bring it to the meal flaming.
I'll give you a link to a good recipe at the end of this blog.

The other fun aspect of the Christmas pudding is the silver charms that used to be dropped into the mixture. Each charm had a meaning. If you found a boot in your slice, you were due to travel soon, a ring and you'd be a bride, a pig and you were a glutton, a button and you were destined to remain a bachelor. We also used to have silver threepenny pieces in ours--those tiny little Victorian silver coins. I don't remember anyone swallowing one or choking. I suppose we ate carefully. Today I have to confess that I buy my puddings ready made. Since only John and I really like them, we only get a small one.
 Let me know if any of you still use charms or coins in yours.
And also let me know if you try the recipe and it's delicious.

Here's the link:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 2

And before.  anyone reminds me that the real twelve days start on Christmas day, I know. I just wanted to create a little excitement as we build up to the day. Afteward we're stuffed with Christmas pudding and turkey and have no energy.

So each day I'm featuring some interesting Christmas fact or tradition, especially the ones featured in my book, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

When I first arrived in the United States I went into a drug store and asked where they kept the crackers. The clerk took me to a shelf of Saltines, Ritz etc.

"No," I said. "I mean the sort of crackers that explode and a hat comes out of them."

Now he looked at me as if I was completely insane. That's when I realized that they didn't have crackers in America. Thankfully that has changed. I can find them now at all kinds of places, including Costco.

And in case you still haven't encountered them yet--they are tubes of paper with a small explosive inside. When you pull them they make a loud snapping sound and out tumble a paper hat, usually in the shape of a crown, a small toy or other gift, riddles and trivia. They are completely useless and way too expensive but my family wouldn't have Christmas without them. For years I had to bring them back from UK in my suitcase (what would the TSA explosive sniffing dogs do with them, I wonder?)

So there is one at every place at Christmas dinner. We pull them, play with the toys, read the riddles and wear the paper hats. Ridiculous but fun. And as to the origin--I really don't know. When I was a child we had all kinds of indoor fireworks, sparklers etc at Christmas. I suspect this was part of that tradition of making fire and noise at the pre-Christian holiday.

And finishing with a spot of good news: Masked Ball at Broxley Manor, that little e-story prequel I wrote for Lady Georgie, has been named on the best e-books of the year by Barnes and Noble. Right next to Jack Reacher! (which is never a bad place to be!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rhys's 12 Days of Christmas, Day One

In celebration of my new book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, I'm going to be blogging every day from now until Christmas Eve, sharing all kinds of interesting snippets of Christmas lore and tradition.

And what better place to start than the song on which the book is based. The Twelve Days of Christmas originally came from France, and all of the first days have to do with good things to eat.

The partridge in a pear tree... well, that's a mis-translation or misunderstanding. You see, the French word for partridge is perdrix. Try saying perdrix and it will sound like "pear tree".
So the song words are really "A partridge, a perdrix."

The two turtle doves are not lovebirds, but again birds that are good to eat at a Christmas feast.
As are three French hens.
And the four calling birds... are really colly birds, which is another word for blackbirds. And as we know they used to be baked in pies, according to the nursery rhyme.

And the gold rings?  No, not things you'd wear on your fingers but ring-necked pheasants. And then follow the geese and the swans...

So the first half of the song is all about killing fowls for the Christmas feast.

You have to remember that in days of yore the normal diet of most people was very plain, very little meat, often hungry. So Christmas was one of the few times of the year when they would pull out all the stops and feast for several days.

You'll notice there is no turkey in the song. Turkeys are New World birds and hadn't been discovered when the song was first composed.

More interesting Christmas trivia tomorrow....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A thoroughly Modern Christmas

I decided to get into the festive spirit and cheer everyone up today so I'm reposting the poem I wrote a couple of years ago:

A Thoroughly Modern Christmas,
By Rhys Bowen

Dashing through the web
Googling sites like mad
Cyber Monday's come again
Bargains to be had

Oh, click click here, click click there
Buy it all online
Overstock and Amazon
Christmas will be fine

Oh... click click here, click click there
Bought it all online
Christmas done and packed and shipped
Have a class of wine!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Horrible Twist

A horrible twist on yesterday's post about the Aussie DJs and their prank call to Kate's hospital--I heard on this morning's news that the young nurse who took the prank call has killed herself.

What a tragic and unnecessary thing to have happened. The original prank was a harmless bit of fun, no malice intended. It hurt nobody. And I suppose it's understandable that a young nurse might be so flustered at hearing the queen on the other end of the line that she didn't stop to think it might be an imposter. (I heard the tape. The accents are quite wrong for the royals.)

But this just shows the power of the media. It has been blown up into such a big thing that it claimed a life.

The same sort of thing happened this week on the Today show when Willie Geist tapped Matt Lauer on the tush with his script as he walked past him. Apparently that crossed all sorts of boundaries of propriety. If you saw it there was nothing in any way inappropriate about it, just a friendly gesture. But again the media hyped it into something naughty, disrespectful and forbidden.

Come on, everyone--where is your sense of humor? I love jokes and pranks as long as they are not mean-spirited or harmful. I would not feel in any way offended if a friend tapped my rear end with a rolled paper as he walked past. I would see it as a friendly gesture of connection.

And yet we are now a society where it is expected that we all hug each other all the time. Makes no sense to me. How about you? And my sincere condolences to the family of that young nurse. A sad day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Royal Hoax

Did you see on the news today that two Australian DJs put in a prank call to Kate's hospital, pretending to be the queen and Prince Charles. The nurse who answered the phone was completely fooled even though the accents were terrible and they both used language no royal would ever use.
When the queen said something about "walking the bloody corgis" that should have been a red flag.

I grew up in a genteel household in England and nobody in the queen's generation would use the word bloody. When I came home from my new job at the BBC and said airily that something was "a bloody nuisance" there was silence in the room and one of my aunts said, "So--you've taken to swearing now, have you?"

Luckily the hoax was discovered before they were put through to Kate's room. Another dead giveaway might have been that it was five in the morning--Australians never able to get their times right, as I can attest after some weird calls from my family members.

But really the nurse must have been clueless. It is highly unlikely that a royal would put through the call. A secretary would establish the contact and then put the queen or Prince Charles on the line. But it does show how easily security can be breached, doesn't it?

And it makes me wonder whether I could make use of a royal hoax in a future Lady Georgie book.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Will and Kate's Baby

So is everyone excited about Will and Kate's baby announcement? In the UK the big betting shops are already taking odds on the baby's sex, name, hair color etc.

So let's choose our own name for them. Vote here on the name you would choose for a boy or a girl.
My choices are Victoria Anne Elizabeth Dianna for a girl
and for a boy I think Phillip will be in there somewhere but not as a first name (Phillip was king of Spain at the time of the Armada) George definitely after the queen's father, maybe David or something Welsh because of their current residence in Wales: so my bet would be George Phillip David Charles.

And your guess would be?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tis the Season to Do What?

Sorry I've been absent for the past week. It was my week to blog on my group blog and I couldn't do both.
But now I'm back and I'm going to be blogging all this month with interesting Christmas related snippets, tied in to my new book THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. So stay tuned for fascinating facts such as the true meaning of the twelve days.

But today I'm a little perplexed. I've just asked everyone what they want for Christmas. One wants a gift certificate to Target, one a gift certificate to a bike shop, one just a gift certificate to Amazon. What happened to gift giving? If I give you a gift certificate and you give me one, why not just not give and buy ourselves a present instead?

When I was younger it was the giving of the gift that was important (at least that is what we were told when we opened Great Aunt Trudy's bright orange hand knitted sweater with the ducks on it). The fact that someone had had serious thoughts about what might make me happy and taken the trouble to find it in a store. Of course the gifts weren't always exactly what we wanted, but did didn't do a mad rush to return them eithre.

Today everything has to be so perfect that people are afraid to give and would rather take the risk out of failure with a gift certificate or even cash. Well, my philosophy is that Santa doesn't carry cash. I'm choosing you a gift. Be grateful.

I remember one Christmas my family decided that the holiday had become too commercial and we'd do homemade gifts for each other. It was fun. I liked it. The results were differing--one made lovely velvet throw pillows that I still use after 20 years. One made great fleece scarves and caps that are still being used. My son in law made wooden toys. My son the actor read CDs of fairytales for his nieces and nephews. Over the years I've tried to personalize presents--last year I made books of family history for each kid. A DVD of ancestors. And to me those are the gifts that are truly precious.

I wish we could do this again, although it is a little stressful trying to get gifts done in time. But I love it. How about you? Any suggestions for homemade gifts?.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The post-Thanksgiving Curmudgeon

Yesterday was a day of warmth and family, sitting around the table and sharing what we were thankful for. So today I'm eating leftovers and having a few thoughts about what I'm not thankful for. Don't get me wrong. I'm awfully grateful for many things--my family, my career,my friends, for living in two places that are so beautiful, for having the chance to travel, for recovering completely from my horrible accident earlier this year.

But if I had a little chat with God, I'd have to tell Him (or Her) of some small ways he goofed. For one thing--I'm not thankful for insects, especially spiders. Anything creepy, crawly with lots of legs is a nightmare to me. My daughter tells me that if there were no insects corpses would never decompose. Couldn't God have made self-decomposing bodies, or better still let us never die?

And I'm not thankful for the way people sing these days.  The louder the singer screeches, the more the audience applauds. What happened to sweet, melodic singing? What happened to good lyrics? I still miss the Beatles and Yesterday.

And in a more modern vein, I'm not thankful for cell phones. I know they are extremely convenient and these days a plane lands and everyone whips out a cell phone and says those magic words, "I just landed." But for all their convenience they have robbed society of one of its most important aspects--interpersonal communication. Watch people in restaurants, in parks, anywhere in public. They are not talking to each other, they are in private universes, texting and reading messages on their smart phones. We'll have a whole generation growing up for whom the art of conversation will be lost.

And do share--are there any particular things you are not thankful for?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Hotel Enigma

I've just returned from a book tour to promote my new Lady Georgie novel, The Twelve Clues of Christmas. After a week of staying in some very snooty hotels, I am left puzzled about certain things, downright grouchy about others.
1. Why does anyone actually need thirty four pillows on the bed? It seems the more expensive the hotel, the more pillows you get.  And I throw all of them onto a chair except one

2. Why does a hotel that charges several hundred dollars a night put really cheap toilet paper in the bathroom? I can afford Charmin double thick. Surely they can too.It would be suitable if they had designer TP maybe with the hotel crest embossed into it. But I'd be content with something thick enough that it doesn't break to pieces when I try to tear it off.

3. Why can't faucets in hotel bathrooms all work the same way? Why does it take me half an hour to figure out how to turn on the shower, and get hit in the face with icy water in the proecess?

4. Aren't hotel bedrooms supposed to be restful places? Then why put scary pictures on walls, strange pieces of artwork on tables. All I want to do is sleep, not admire art, and a large image of a faceless man staring down at me is not going to help.

5. How can anyone charge fifteen dollars for a continental breakfast without blushing with guilt?  I agree that one has to pay a cook to prepare something, but one croissant and tea surely don't take much preparing, apart from putting it onto a plate.

6.And on the subject of food--why this need to come up with strange, new, untried combinations of flavor. I don't actually want pork cheeks with scallops, or anything with organic striped figs. After a long day grilled cheese and tomato soup sounds good to me.

Do you have any pet hotel beefs? Have you ever found the perfect hotel?

Monday, November 19, 2012

catching my breath

For the faithful followers of this blog, I'm sorry I haven't kept you up to date. Traveling to one city each day with an event every evening means there isn't enough time for my usual online routine. I did keep everyone up to date on Facebook, but that was about all I could manage. (So if you want my daily updates, do check out my Facebook page and click LIKE. It's AuthorRhysBowen.)

I've now finished my tour and I'm at our condo in Arizona, catching my breath.... and enjoying all the good news. The Twelve Clues of Christmas made the New York Time bestseller list at #25 this weekend and also the Publisher's Weekly list at #25 and was mentioned on USA Today's blog... and was the Number One Cozy mystery on and the Number One historical mystery.

So all good news. Now it's hard to wind down after rushing to catch a plane every morning, removing shoes, jacket etc etc, being patted down because I was wearing a skirt (that's a first, isn't it?). And finding myself in a small plane, squashed in next to a man who was an aged lady's man and still thought he was hot stuff. Luckily just for an hour's flight.  He told me he was a golf pro and he could teach me a lot of new things. He gave a lecherous leer while saying this. I told him I was a mystery writer and could kill with no trace.

I'm now going to enjoy Thanksgiving week with family before I do more events early in December. I hope you can take the time to enjoy your Thanksgivings too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tour Update

 Book Tour For The Twelve Clues of Christmas,  Day 5. Today I'm in Seattle, having come from hot Houston to cold and wet. It was quite a jolt to the system and I had to rush out and find some warm tights. This afternoon the weather improved and the sun tried to break through the clouds. I had finished my noon time event at The Seattle Mystery Bookstore and the various drive-by signings so I escaped to the waterfront and stood on a dock watching the ferries glide across black water. It was very peaceful and just the sort of spiritual charge I needed in the middle of a busy schedule.

Now I have to put on my "famous author" clothes again and go out to another event at Third Place Books. And in the morning I have to be up early to appear on a Seattle TV show. I'm supposed to recreate an old English Christmas in the studio. I'm bringing crackers and the props to play silly games. The producer wanted me to make sausage rolls in front of the camera, but I could forsee too many potential disasters there and am having a local tea shop make them instead.

I met two lovely ladies today--one had driven to see me all the way from Spokane, that's five hours, and the other was recovering from a serious illness and told me what a comfort my audio books had been to her. It's moments like that that make the long lonely months of writing all worthwhile.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be in Portland, first at Murder by the Book and then at Powells in the evening. Then I'm going home. Yipee.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Tour, The Ups and Downs.

Rhys checking in from on the road, promoting my new book The Twelve Clues of Christmas. If it's Saturday it must be Houston.
The event in Scottsdale at Poisoned Pen was fabulous with a big audience who loved playing the English party games, pulling crackers and trying the cake and shortbread. Fellow mystery writers Dana Stabenow and Jen McKinley were sweet enough to come and cheer me on, as was super-librarian/blogger Lesa Holstein.

So that was the good part of the tour so far. The bad part was yesterday's flight, that I almost missed. I arrived at the airport one and a half hours before the flight. Stood in a line for half an hour to drop off my bag, then stood in the TSA line for FORTY FIVE MINUTES. The line snaked around the terminal while two agents checked documents. When I was about to cut the line, pleading that I was about to miss my flight they brought out more TSA people and it speeded up. Ridiculous.

I remember flying when it was fun and relaxing. Now it is a royal pain, if you'll pardon the terminology :) Then on the flight I had a real Lady Georgie moment. For those of you who don't know my heroine, she tends to be clumsy and have embarrassing accidents. Well..... on the plane I opened the cream for my coffee and it shot straight at my dark blue blazer. Lots of desperate rubbing and I think it's going to be okay.

Today I speak at one of my favorite stores: Murder by the Book in Houston. Hope to see some of you there. And tomorrow on to Seattle. Complete itinerary on my website.
And today I'm blogging at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What's the marmite doing in the shower?

If you're expecting a coherent and witty blog post from me today, I'm afraid it ain't going to happen. I left home this morning on the first leg of a book tour. And if you don't think I'm stressed before I set off on tour, let me tell you that I walked into the shower carrying a jar of marmite this morning. I meant to put it away in the pantry.

I'm now in Scottsdale and guess what--it's dark and raining and looks as if there might be a thunderstorm any moment. Great. It rains in this part of the world about six times a year and yet whenever I have a book signing event it rains. I'm thinking of hiring myself out as a rain-maker.

If you do want to read a witty or funny blog by me I have been guest blogging on several sites this week. where I blogged an interview between Lady Georgie and Molly Murphy. where I blogged about fashion disasters during book tours (not prophetic, I hope)
and tomorrow on where I'm blogging about searching for the real Christmas.

And I'm posting my updates on Facebook
Maybe tomorrow I'll have a few moments to post something coherent here. And no more jars of Marmite in the shower.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Upstairs, Downstairs

Are you addicted to the new Upstairs,Downstairs as much as you were to Downton Abbey? Me neither. I wonder why, as the story is just as much soap opera. Maybe it's just that the house is smaller, and the people are correspondingly smaller. Nobody to compare with the nobility of Robert, Earl of Grantham, or Lady Mary Crawley. Or maybe it's just that I remember the original series so fondly. That seemed to have real drama and pathos without being sleazy or reverting to shock value. I remember the episode when Lady Marjorie falls in love with a young officer, but it's just left as a romance that can never be. She doesn't leap into bed with him. And the heart-stretching triangle at the battle front in WWI when James is wounded and his cousin Georgina is his nurse, desperately in love with him, and his wife Hazel goes out to France to bring him home. Those were dramas that really moved me. The dramas in this series seem sensational or small and petty.

Am I just older and wiser now or is this series part of the new school of writing that has to go for blockbuster all the time? Or maybe it's the time frame that's different. Life in the 1930s had definitely changed for the aristocracy. Servants were no longer so subservient to their masters. Uncomfortable movements like the Black Shirts were permeating all levels of society.

Ah well. Only two months to the next Downton season. I know it's already out in England but I'm being good and not emailing relatives to ask what is happening.

And another snippet: my own new Lady Gerogie novel, THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS, which features quite a bit of upstairs/downstairs action in a lovely old manor house, will be in stores and on Amazon and Barnes and tomorrow. Much more fun that the election, I promise you!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thoughts after Sandy

As I watched the TV broadcasts of the destruction on the East Coast I was conscious that the reporters said over and over again things about the might of Mother Nature. We are powerless against Mother Nature, they repeated. How true, and yet we never learn.

In the county of Kent, in Southern England, there is a town called Rye. It was once thriving, one of the famous Cinque Ports that traded with the rest of Europe. It is now a sleepy country town because the coastline has changed and the sea is now several miles away. And not too far away there is another village, now under water. Both are classic examples of the way coastlines change over the centuries. Cliffs crumble. Sand washes down the coast with the tide and makes new sand bars. Barrier islands are just this--sand bars that are supposed to be fluid and temporary and protect the coast. When we build on them we try to make them permanent, but they will never be.

I know I'd be tempted to buy a lovely beachfront home. Who wouldn't. But in the end Mother Nature is going to win.There is always going to be that one hurricane, that one storm surge, freak wave, that washes over the barrier island and takes the sand away to deposit further north and make new land. It's how our planet works. And we should accept that. Let's hope that people will learn to leave the coast to Mother Nature and not try to rebuild.

Having said this, I choose to live near an earthquake fault, hoping that the "big one" won't come in my lifetime. I guess we humans are willing to trade any amount of risk for the lovely view and the closeness to nature. Maybe we hope that this close proximity will convince Mother Nature to be on our side for once.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What scares you?

It's Halloween today and I can imagine that many people across the US certainly don't want or need anything else to scare them. Real life is scary enough as it is. And then I'm thinking of all the poor little kids who have the costume and the Trick and Treat pail and nowhere to go. Mother Nature can certainly disrupt our frail human plans, can't it?

But because it is Halloween I'm thinking about what I'm scared of. Mostly it's silly things, primeval things like the dark and spiders. I don't know why I'm scared of the dark but I still have to sleep with my door open a crack and light coming in from the hall. When I'm in a hotel room I have to open the drapes enough to see around the room.

 And spiders...i know they are good and helpful and I shouldn't be scared, but I am. Of course there were a couple of times when I should have been scared like the time I carried out a big spider in a glass with just a sheet of paper between me and it and discovered from the photo we took that it was a brown recluse. And once in Australia I went to the bathroom at a national park, closed the door and a huge, large, very, very big Huntsman spider, about 4 inches across and hairy, crawled and sat on top of the door. I had visions of it dropping onto my hand if I tried to open the door but didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a restroom. My heart was certainly beating fast as I pulled that door open, inch by inch, then ran for my life, convinced that the spider was sitting on my shoulder laughing....

A writer's imagination is sometimes dangerous. It is prone to embellishing reality and presenting a worst-case scenario.  Oh, and I'm scared of moths. But not snakes or sharks. I have swum with baracudas. I have stood on narrow mountain ledges. Makes no sense. How about you. What scares you most?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Darcy and Sandy snippets

For those of you who are wondering whether Darcy will show up in this book....can you imagine a fun Christmas without misletoe and the right man?

Sending out protective vibes to all my friends and readers on the East Coast of the US. Stay safe and dry!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sneak Preview of The Twelve Clues of Christmas, part 3

I hope you enjoyed sneak peeks one and two.
Did I mention that the book includes a compendium of Christmas recipes, games, traditions?
English villages are definitely strange and have plenty of weird customs. This village is among the stranger ones...

Here is sneak peek number  three... Enjoy.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas. Sneak Preview 3.

  As we came out of the gates and into the village we noticed several groups of villagers, standing in tight knots, talking animatedly. A cluster of men outside the pub glanced furtively in our direction, then went back to their chatter. There was something unnerving about this, a tension in the air as if something was being plotted. Bunty didn’t seem to notice there was anything odd in their behavior.
            “So here’s the sum total of Tiddleton-Under-Lovey,” she said. “One pub, two shops, one school, one church on the green and a few cottages.”
            “What about that nicer house beside the school? I asked. “Is that where the schoolmaster lives?”
            “Oh no, he has a cottage on the Widdecombe road. That house belongs to the Missess ffrench-Finch. Three elderly sisters who have lived there all their lives. Their father left them quite well off and they never married. We used to call them the Three Weird Sisters and spy on them when we were growing up. You’ll meet them over Christmas, I’m sure. Mummy always invites them to Christmas lunch.”
            “And what about the pub?” I asked, looking at the sign swinging in the chill morning breeze. “The Hag and Hounds? What’s that about?”
            “Local history.” Bunty grinned. “We had a local witch you know. Back in the seventeen hundreds. They wanted to catch her and bring her to trial, but she escaped onto the moor. They chased her to the top of Lovey Tor with a pack of hounds and then burned her at the stake. We have a festival to celebrate it every New Year’s Eve. You’ll be able to see just how primitive we are down here in Devon.  This way.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sneak Preview, part deux!

I hope you enjoyed the first sneak preview of my upcoming novel THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS. Here is a second sneak peek. It will be in stores and on Amazon etc on November 6 (election day) so if you find the election as hopelessly annoying as I do, you may want to escape to an old English Christmas.


The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Sneak Preview 2.

Lady Hawse-Gorzley motioned me to sit in one of the arm chairs then went over to a table in the corner and picked up a decanter. “Sherry all right for you? Or would you prefer something stronger? A brandy maybe after your travels?”
“No, sherry would be lovely, thank you.”
“Always have one myself before dinner. I suppose the sun has to be over the yard arm, wouldn’t you say? What time is it, by the way? Damned grandfather clock has given up the ghost again. It’s been in the family since seventeen hundred so I suppose one can allow it the odd temper tantrum, but dashed awkward time to do it.”
“It’s about five thirty,” I said, consulting my wrist watch.
“Is it, by George. A little early for sherry, but in the circumstances, I suppose we can bend the rules, what?” She poured two generous glasses and handed me one. “God, how the time has flown today. I don’t know how we’re going to get everything ready for the guests in time. Those damned police tramping around all day.” She perched on the arm of a nearby chair and knocked back her sherry in one gulp. “Like another?” she asked and looked in surprise that I hadn’t yet started mine. “Come on. Drink up. Do you good.”
I knew that good breeding did not allow one to ask too many questions, but I was dying of curiosity. “Lady Hawse-Gorzley, you mentioned that the police had been here all day. What exactly have they been doing?”
“Tramping all over the place and upsetting my servants, that’s what. Damned impertinence. All because our stupid neighbor had to go and kill himself in our orchard. Of all the inconsiderate things to do, especially when he knew I had people coming. Still that was par for the course with him. Didn’t care a hoot about anybody but himself.”
I tried to digest this while she knocked back a second sherry. “Your neighbor killed himself? Committed suicide, you mean?”
“I hardly think so. If you wanted to kill yourself you probably wouldn’t bother to climb a tree first, would you? Not unless you wanted to fall and break your neck and our fruit trees aren’t that big. No, the police think it was an accident. Carrying a loaded rook rifle with him, somehow slipped or knocked the gun and it went off in his face.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sneak Preview of Twelve Clues!

Here it is: the first promised sneak preview of my upcoming book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

And don't forget that I'll be running a contest through the month of November. Two copies of the book will be given away to the best comments made on this site. So share your thoughts!


As we set off through the country lanes the sun was sinking in a red ball behind the hills. Rooks were cawing as they flew home to their trees. On a great sweep of upland moor I saw a line of Dartmoor ponies silhouetted against the sunset.
We came around a bend and there it was, Tiddleton-Under-Lovey, nestled under a snow capped tor. Was that rocky crag the Lovey, I wondered. It didn’t look very loving to me. Or was it perhaps the noisy little stream that passed under the humpback bridge as we approached the first houses? On one side of the village street was a small row of shops and a pub called the Hag and Hounds—complete with swinging pub sign depicting a witch on a broomstick with baying dogs below her. On the other side was a pond on which glided several graceful swans, and a village green. Behind this were some thatched cottages and the square tower of a church. Smoke curled up from chimneys and hung in the cold air. A farmer passed, riding a huge carthorse, the clip clop of its hooves echoing crisply in the evening air.
            “Stone me, miss, it looks just like a ruddy picture postcard, don’t it?” Queenie said, summing up my thoughts.
            I wondered which of the cottages was to be occupied by my mother and Noel Coward. I wondered if my grandfather had consented to come and my heart leaped with hope. Christmas at an elegant house party and my loved ones nearby. What more could I want. Darkness fell abruptly as we drove between a pair of tall gateposts, topped with stone lions, and up a gravel drive, Lights shone out of a solid unadorned gray stone house, its severe fa├žade half covered in ivy. This then was Gorzley Hall. It didn’t exactly look like the site of an elegant house party—more Bennett residence than Pemberley, but who was I to judge by appearances?
            We drew up at the front entrance and he chauffeur came around to open the door for me.
            “My maid will help you with the bags,” I said, indicating to Queenie that she should stay, even though she was looking apprehensive, then I went up to the front door. It was a massive studded affair obviously designed to keep out past invaders. I rapped on the knocker and the door swung open. I waited for someone to come then stepped gingerly into a slate floored hallway.
“Hello?” I called.
On one side a staircase ascended to a gallery and I spied a pair of legs in old trousers up on a ladder. He was a stocky chap with shaggy gray hair, wearing a fisherman’s jersey and old flannels and he was wrestling with a long garland of holly and ivy.
            “Excuse me,” I called out.
            He spun around in surprise and I saw that it wasn’t a man at all but a big boned woman with cropped hair. “Who are you?” she demanded, peering down at me.
            My arrival wasn’t exactly going as I had expected. “I’m Georgiana Rannoch,” I said. “If you could please go and tell Lady Hawse-Gorzley that I have arrived. She is expecting me.”
            “I am Lady Hawse-Gorzley,” she said. “Been so dashed busy that I completely forgot you were coming today. Come up and grab the other end of this, will you? Damned thing won’t stay put. It looked so simple in Country Life.”
            I put down my train case and did as she requested. Together we secured the garland and she came down the ladder. “Sorry about that,” she said, wiping her hands on her old slacks. “I don’t want you to think we’re always this disorganized. Had a hell of a day here. Police tramping all over the place, not letting the servants get on with their work. That’s why we’re so behind. Must have the decorations up, y’know. First guests arriving day after tomorrow. ”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Countdown to Christmas? Surely not yet...

I don't know about you but I am seriously miffed when I see Christmas items appearing in the stores at the end of August (the moment the back to school sale is over). Isn't this overkill? How can Christmas have any magic at all if we're bombarded with Silent Night and leaping reindeer all through the fall? I remember my childhood Christmases as magic because they just appeared in the middle of dreary winter. Suddenly there were toys and crackers in the stores, turkeys at the butcher shop, children singing carols on street corners. We bought the Christmas tree on Christmas eve and took it home to decorate that evening. Dark evenings suddenly twinkled with lights. There were good smells in the kitchens. A wonderful sense of hope and anticipation grew inside me. It couldn't be long now! This makes me sound as if I'm a contemporary of Dickens but this was really how it was in an Engish village until recently.

However, now I find I'm joining the enemy and talking about Christmas in October. Actually I'm talking about a book, called THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS, by a fabulous, outstandingly marvelous author called Rhys Bowen (known to be modest as well as a great writer :) and it will be in stores on November 6. Not that anybody will notice because November 6 is election day!
I hope on November 7 that people will feel like celebrating with a good book or licking their wounds by curling up with a good book and will then rush out to buy it.

So I thought I'd start my own little countdown to the launch of the book by posting some sneak previews from the book. The first one is tomorrow. Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Good Day, Bay Day

Thursday was a day of highs and lows for me. I got great news from my publisher that my upcoming book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, has received a starred review from Library Journal. This joins a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, a top pick from RT Reviews and a glowing reviews from Kirkus. All great news.
But my joy yesterday was tempered because it was also the day of a friend's funeral. So I've been in reflective mood. Among other things it made me realize how casually I and fellow mystery writers write about death. For us death is usually clever ways to kill, evil murderers to be outsmarted. And wedon't really take into account what a devastating thing death is for a family.

There have been times when I have been aware in my books of the effect death has on families. In my Constable Evans novel, Evan's Gate,(that was my one and only Edgar nomination) the whole story revolves around the loss of a little girl years ago and the disintegration of the family as they live with guilt. That was one of the stories of which I'm most proud. But even in my Royal Spyness novels, that are essentially comedies, I try not to trivialize the actual murder. My victim is often an evil person who deserves what he gets. That way I don't feel so bad about bumping him off.

But I have read plenty of books in which someone falls over dead in the punch bowl at a wedding and the sleuth gleefully says "Oh goody. A murder. Let's solve it." This always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I realize our books are written to entertain. Readers love the puzzle, the suspense, the danger. And they also love that we can bring evil-doers to justice and make everything all right in the end. It's not often that this happens in real life, is it?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Desperately seeking something.

We have a guest visiting from England and she was enthralled that people here put up lights for Halloween, decorate their front yards with tombstones and ghosts and generally get into the spirit long before the event.

"You should see Christmas," I told her. If you don't have lights all over the house, Santa leaping on the roof-top and animated snowmen in the front yard you are dubbed a grinch. So why do we go overboard about holidays here? We must be desperately seeking for something--my guess is that we lack the pomp and traditions of older nations--we don't have a week of New Year madness like they do in China, we don't have Carnival like Rio or like much of Europe. Former religious holidays have lost much of their meaning and power,  so we need to make the most of what we have.

I think humans have an inborn desire for feasts, celebrations, especially celebrating the passing of the seasons of the year. So we're just imitating those old Celts. Our spring festival is Easter with eggs and the Easter bunny, our summer festival is Fourth of July and red white and blue parades, our fall festival is Halloween and our winter solstice is Christmas and/or Hannukah.

So do you think we go overboard here? Are we desperately seeking something we no longer have?

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's that Time of Year Again!

I've just enjoyed a great week on Rhys's Pieces, with almost 700 visitors on the best day. So I've been checking past stats and interestingly enough the post with the most views was last year's Halloween blog about why people like to be scared.

Halloween is, of course, a Celtic festival. It was the time when the veil between our world and Otherworld was lifted, when spirits, ghouls, and all manner of horrid things passed into our world for one night. Thus the wearing of scary masks and dressing up as ghosts and monsters was to make the creatures from beyond think that we were one of them and thus not try to grab us and take us back with them.

So I wonder if Halloween is part of our collective psyche, like being attracted to the smell of wood smoke and the fear of the dark (and spiders in my case). Some part of us remembers sitting around a camp fire generations ago, feeling safe and protected while one of the group told a scary story.  My children and grandchildren certainly have enjoyed transforming themselves into frightening things. Sweet little Mary Clare, aged 6, apparently told the other kids in her class that she was really a vampire, making them all terrified of her. The teacher complained to my daughter who made her promise not to do it again. "So promise mommy you won't tell anyone you're a vampire again," my daughter said. Mary Clare gave her a sweet smile. "Okay, mommy," she said. Then she went to school the next day and told them that she wasn't a vampire.... she was really a werewolf!

I have to admit that it's fun dressing up and being someone else for a while, but my costumes usually are of the harmless variety. Last year I was my character Lady Georgiana and John was an aging seducer from the Thirties. And this year I've written a special Halloween story featuring Lady Georgie. It's called Masked Ball at Broxley Manor--an extravaganza involving royalty and at least one gate-crasher. You can find it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to put you in the Halloween spirit.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bouchercon--Rhys tells all

After a horrible flight via Chicago that took forever I'm back from Cleveland with a bag full of books and terrific memories of the Bouchercon world mystery convention. You'd think that people who kill for a living would be mean and anti social but one look at the bar at the convention hotel would prove that we really love hanging out together (and drinking). Many of the big names of our profession were there--mingling with us lesser mortals--Mary Higgins Clark, Lee Child, Elizabeth George, Robin Cook, Michael Connelly, Sara Paretzky, Charlaine Harris--who delivered my favorite line of the convention. She said her husband used to look upon her writing as a little hobby he had to subsidize. Then she paused and smiled. "He doesn't say that any more," she added..

My Cleveland experience started with an interview for NPR, after which they asked me to do an i and mpromptu plug for public radio for an upcoming fund drive. I love public radio but wish that I'd had some time to prepare something witty!
Then the convention kicked off with opening ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As you approach the building you are greeted by row after row of giant guitars. Inside it's glass and steel, lots of neon lights--and loud with several hundred people crammed into it. John Connelly, the toastmaster, introduced guests of honor and the MacAvity and Barry awards were presented (I didn't win this year). Then I had to rush back to the hotel to rehearse for the famous Jungle Red Writers Family Feud. The rehearsal was a disaster and my Jungle Red sister Hank Phillippi Ryan suggested it might be a career-ending move.

However on the day it was a huge success. The ballroom was crammed to overflowing. The audience laughed and called out answers and got prizes. I was on a team with Red Julia Spencer-Fleming's adorable husband Ross, who kept calling out really weird answers--resulting in my wrestling the buzzer away from him (which the audience loved!).

The panels at these conventions are usually earnest and sober affairs so the chance to laugh was good for everybody. The next day I moderated one of these in depth panels when I hosted "Across the Pond" with British superstars Val McDermid, Stuart Neville and Peter James. We discussed the roots and differences between crime and crime writing in Britain and the US, and my favorite line was Vals. She described Scotland as having Iraqi weather: "Occasionally sunny but mostly Shiite."

There were receptions hosted by publishers, a chance to meet the Canadian writers and an Anthony awards ceremony that was preceded by the longest raffle in the history of mankind. Next year's crew please note--DO NOT REPEAT.

So I had a great time meeting old friends, making new ones and putting names to faces of fans who have written to me. And now I'm back to reality and laundry waiting to be done. Cinderella has left the ball.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Big Week for Bowen

I'm sorry if I've been silent on the blogging front for a week. I had a double deadline to complete by October 1 and I'm delighted to say that I sent off both items this weekend. One was the new Lady Georgie novel, called HEIRS AND GRACES. The other was a Molly Murphy e-story to come out next February ahead of the new Molly book. And that story is called THE FACE IN THE MIRROR. It was rather scary to see it already listed on Amazon when I hadn't even written it. But now it's done and I'm pleased with it.

So I'm already to enjoy my big week ahead. First tomorrow, October 2nd sees the launch of a new Lady Georgie e-story on Amazon, and everywhere e-books are sold. It's a prequel to her career as Her Royal Spyness and it takes place at a Halloween masked ball at a stately home with all the elements we love about the Georgie books--a repulsive prince, a masked stranger, danger, political intrigue and a very naive young woman. Please be warned that it is not a whole novel. It's a fun story.

Then on Wednesday I set off for Ann Arbor, MI to be part of the 20th anniversary celebration of one of my favorite bookstores AUNT AGATHA'S. I've been welcomed at that store for all 15 years of my writing career and I'm so thrilled they are still flourishing when so many others have gone under. I'll be interviewing the owner on my other blog ( on Wednesday. And by the way, I'll be hosting Jungle Reds all this week so do come on over and see what fun things we're discussing--like whether we can kill in real life, and whether we believe in love at first sight.

On Thursday I go on to Cleveland where the world mystery convention, called Bouchercon, is being held. Again I'll be joining my Jungle Red sisters for a fun mystery version of Family Feud, then moderating a panel called ACROSS THE POND with such stellar Brits as Val MacDermid and Stuart Neville.

I'll try to take pix and keep you updated on the inside scoop of mysterydom. All the dirty details! So stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Revisiting Rigoletto

Last night I went to a stellar performance of Rigoletto at the San Francisco Opera house. Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak was sublime with a pure soaring voice that could produce those sweet high notes even when she was slumped over dying. And what's more she looked like a sweet young girl too--slim and lovely. Remember those old opera heroines who were as wide as houses?

Rigoletto has always been special to me because it was the first opera I saw. My aunt took me to the Bristol Old Vic, thinking we were going to see The Merry Widow. But she had her dates wrong and it was Rigoletto instead. "I don't know if this is too old for you," she said, but I loved it. I cried when Gilda died and I was hooked on opera forever more.

The interesting thing is that I know what's going to happen at the end but I still want to see it again and I still cry. The same happened when I saw Romeo and Juliet in Ashland this month. I know the play by heart but I still cry.

I guess this ties in to reading the same books over and over. My husband can't understand why anybody would want to read a book more than once. I, on the other hand, visit books as old friends. There are certain comfort reads that I turn to in times of stress--the Agatha Christies of course, Jane Austen, Gerald Durrell. There are books like Possession that blew me away the first time I read it and I got even more out of it the second and third times.  I have read the Lord of the Rings over and over, still savoring every moment.

So how about you? Do you like revisiting old favorites? Do you ever tire of seeing familiar plays, reading familiar books?